Zacharus Gudmunsen


I am a Third Year PhD Candidate in Philosophy supervised by Prof. Vincent Muller. My PhD thesis is on the possibility of Artificial Intelligences having intuitions, particularly moral intuitions.

My broader research project is to develop a framework for evolutionary artificial moral agents. I want to use evolutionary approaches found in moral psychology, evolutionary ethics, and other evolutionary explanations for moral behaviour to provide a template for non-human systems to behave morally to the same epistemic standards as humans do. That is, not only behaving morally, but having similar moral reasons, reasoning, and motivation as humans. As part of this, I aim to clarify both what it means to be moral for non-human systems and, given an evolutionary-inspired template for being moral, how artificial systems can enact that template.

PhD Thesis Summary

AI systems are very capable, but humans have experiences, like intuitions, that are difficult to understand from a first person perspective and resistant to analysis. These experiences would be very valuable for an AI system, particularly my main focus: ethical intuitions. If an AI system can have ethical intuitions they’ll be more trustworthy and effective when given tasks that require integration with humans. However, our typical approach of developing AI systems that can do human-like things is, because of our lack of understanding of the exact mechanisms of intuitions, unlikely to succeed. I suggest that this cannot be solved with more data or more sophisticated traditionally developed algorithms, but, drawing from moral psychology and evolutionary ethics, I propose using artificial life or other evolution-inspired AI systems to simulate ethical intuitions. Humans evolved to have ethical intuitions through evolutionary drives to co-operate, social emotions that encourage representation of the value of co-operation, and finally linguistic representation of those values (moral values). I investigate whether AI systems can simulate these features and whether the sum of those simulations amount to the ability to have ethical intuitions.


I am grateful to the IDEA centre for awarding me a studentship in applied ethics.

Research interests

Metaethics, Evolutionary Ethics, Moral Psychology, Ethics of Technology, Artificial Intelligence, Epistemology, Philosophy of Mind, Computationalism


  • BA in Philosophy at University of Liverpool (2013-2016)
  • MA in Philosophy at Bilkent University (2016-2018)